by Wasif Khan
The birth of a new aristocrat heir ensured the union between the self claimed god and his official monks for one more generation, who fooled everyone into believing their pseudo-creed of human god. So superstitious were the masses that the dared not anger the human god or question the religious authorities of the time. Sort of the similar situation in our time where we see a union between many unjust governments and their appointed “Department or Ministry of Awqaaf”.
The heir grew up with utmost care, dealt with unparallel attention; the term “born with silver spoon” didn’t even begin to explain his share of wealth. His life set, course treaded, and all he needed was to replace his father, the high priest of the King Nimrod, after his death and live the life of luxury, compensation, and style like no other in the whole dominion after the king.
Yet as he grew older, his Fitra took over and challenged the king, his beloved family, and all those around him. Imagine being a Muslim in Gitmo prison all alone with hundreds of military personnel around! As fate would have an expected result, the defiant youth on the path of truth, tortured, battered, ignored, appealed to the intellect, logic, and tradition, but all ignored, and exiled from his land with his wife and nephew.
As he spent all his life traversing one country after the other to spread the Deen of Allah, Subhana wa Ta’ala, before long the signs of old age and stress of people not obeying the One and Mighty showed on this ninety-some year old man. He lived alone with a barren wife and no child. Then as Providence would have it, he was blessed with a beautiful child, but no sooner did the call came from the up above to sacrifice his most beloved by leaving him and his mother in a no country desert. Miles and miles away from civilization, sustenance, or even an oasis. I have hard time leaving my 7 year old daughter and 4 year old son every week for 4 days for my job, with a confirmed return ticket back home. So imagine a 90 year old man leaving his most beloved relative in lave-hardened hot and cruel, stony and merciless hilly valley of modern day Makkah. In addition, the God’s command were don’t look back, just drop him and his mother there and leave. Wow, and what an amazing mother, who asked, “are you leaving us here, in the middle of nowhere, on God’s accord?” and when she heard yes, then she turned away from her beloved husband never looking back stating, “Then God will watch over us!”
Years later when came the father back to visit, the boy and wife, his hear overwhelmed with joy as he saw his strong boy growing obedient and caring. When God did ask him to sacrifice this beloved boy, we don’t know who to praise more, the father: who proved his loyalty and love of God through his actions throughout his unsettled and selfless life, or the son who obedient to God and father didn’t hesitate to submit within the fraction of a moment? You decide. As for me I say may Allah bless them both with the highest reward he has stationed with himself.
After passing with flying colors in all tests and trials, God ordered them to lay the foundation of the holiest place of worship in the holiest piece of land on this earth. They both, the father and son, as obedient servants built the Ka’abah, and while doing so happily, without complain, kept praying to bless the land, bless the families, bless the believers, and accept their unquestionable sincerity and intentions. Once done the father was ordered to stand at a close by hilltop and make the “Call for Prayer”. He looked around and for miles and miles; all he could see was barren land and hardened lava rocks, and a lifeless land. “Who am I calling?” Came the thought when he was ordered to make the call for prayers, and God told him, you make the call and I’ll send them in groups to answer your call.
More than four thousand years later, this year again, many of us answered that call to prayer by replying, “Labbaik Allahumma Labbaik, Labbaika la sharika laka labbaik, innal hamda, wan na’amata, laka wa mulk, laa sharika lak” (Here I come O Lord here I come; Here I come no partners do you have, All praises are for you, and All blessings are from you and yours, the kingdom belongs to You solely, no partners do You have!)
What an amazing call, and what an amazing response, but somehow as the sand of time covers the history, our understanding of this beautiful Deen also gets tainted. Now we think Hajj and other acts of worship are mere rituals and forms while utterly forgetting the spirit that they are to be recognized for. This year when I made my intention to go for Hajj, and finally when the time came, the events that unfolded were shocking. I was amazed at the understanding of Muslims about ‘Ibadaat, and lack of spirit of Islam.
When at the airport, I was standing in line of ticket counter, everyone on the line was going to Hajj, yet people followed no law, discipline, or cared for those around them. People offered bribes to get boarding passes, a doctor talking to a group of brothers stating, “My wife is crying like a baby, maybe I should go to Hajj, I’ll just get off the plane and go some other time…” Masses hurdled as if they were going to some vacation spot as oppose to the greatest form of ‘Ibadah, as Imam Abu Hanifah called Hajj with such respect.
Hardly was I over the shock of the utter ignorance of Muslims at the ticket counter line that in a Muslim Airline, we sat and to our shock noticed all the Muslim female staff was without hijab and in mini-skirts, not even covering their ‘awrah properly. This was the plane full of Hujjaj going for Hajj and yet, no hayah or shyness or shame was in their eyes, as if it didn’t matter what blessed month it is and what blessed purpose we were all traveling for and who were they catering to…”Dha’uf ur Rahman” the Guests of the Merciful.
Hardly had the plane taken off that the TV screens dropped and a movie about latest female fashions and designer clothes and shoes started, and of course, displaying extremely indecent clothes, with most vulgar women! Battling hard not to look up, shortly after did the movie Bourne Ultimatum started. I don’t know about you, I don’t care how much you don’t like movies, when Bourn is on, all bets are off! I closed my eyes, and started remembering Allah, and no sooner I went to sleep. Rest is hazy as I don’t remember what happened but I remember being extremely disappointed at our state of affairs as an Ummah.
Once we got to Amman, for flight connection to Jeddah, people rushed to transit visa desk and again followed no quorum or form. Did what we do best as a Jama’ah, showed total lack of unity and mercy. While walking to the right terminal and gate we passed through barrage of western stores like Starbucks, Cinnabon, Duty Free Shops, and much more, again our sisters half naked and uncovered as if it is a horrible thing to be dressed decently.
We take the flight to Jeddah and to my utmost astonishment; still the staff was uncovered and half naked. Still, I think it did not click anyone’s mind that we are on a blessed journey to the holiest part of the whole wide world of all times. Yet, as we are we got to Jeddah Hajj terminal and ignoring the minor details in lack of discipline, we get out of the immigration process and met our group leader outside. May Allah bless him and protect him, the first think Br. Muneer told us was, “…don’t think for a moment that your Hajj is in your hands. It’s in the hands of those next to you. So take care of those around you. Sacrifice a bit for them so that Allah may accept your actions from you all…” Funny thing is that in our group was traveling an Imam of a very well known masjid with his family. At every chance, he gave blessed lectures and reminded us beautiful things about Islam and our Deen, our responsibilities and Allah’s rights. So all people in our group were constantly being reminded about Allah and the purpose of our journey.
Finally, our buses came to take us to the hotels in Makkah. We were to rush to Makkah because it was Friday, and the roads were going to close at 9 AM, and the current time was 2 AM. As we were about to leave we found six stranded Hujjaj with no help and hope of getting anywhere. Our group leader decided to help them and put them and their luggage in our bus; remember that not even five minutes earlier he had told us that help all Muslims out…
We left and we got to the outskirts of Makkah. We got to the Pilgrims Services Offices. First we stopped at the office building for those six stranded Hujjaj. Unfortunately, their paperwork got lost and instead of usual 30 minutes, it took more than an hour to process their Hajj papers. In the mean time the Call for Fajr prayer started, so we all joined the Jama’ah in the local masjid. When we came back to the bus, instead of making talbiyah as we were all in the state of Ihraam, the first person to complain was the Imam who was traveling with us. Shocked at his selfishness and meanness, I reminded him about what brother Muneer had told us, and his response was, “Muneer is responsible for us, not for them. Who cares about them, leave them let them deal with their own stuff why do we have to suffer?” the only response to this I could think was the recitation of talbiyah out loud, getting my message the Imam went back to his seat. Other people were getting very agitated too, but none were as hurtful as this Imam and another very senior uncle who is a big shot university professor in USA. Younger people were more calm and trying to be mindful of Allah.
After much delay we got to our hotel at 8 AM, so we settled in and decided to take sisters for ‘Umrah at 9 PM since it was the last Jummu’ah before Hajj and it would be very crowded. As for me, because of medical condition I decided to go do my ‘Umrah right away, alone (as it was permitted by our Ameer). As I entered the Masjid al-Haram, wow, I can’t explain the feeling. Those who have been there know what I am talking about and those who have not been there, sorry; you need to go there to understand what I am talking about. Lost in emotions, I went to the first floor, just gazing at Ka’abah, zoning out everyone and everything else around me, I entered the field to start my tawaaf. As I started the tawaaf, no sooner than I took my first step, bham, wham, dham…I got punched, pushed, hit, thrown away like a straw all over the place. Not just by men, but by all, men, women, old, young, feeble, strong, white, black, Asians, Americans, Europeans…you name it and they were all there pushing each other yelling and crowding. And all this time I am thinking don’t they know the Hadith that don’t fight, don’t yell, and don’t get angry. If you accomplish your pilgrimage without these traits your reward is the forgiveness of all your sins, and then right there, I got knocked off of my feet by a group of small Indonesian women.
Extremely sad, I m thinking “Hajj – A life altering journey” is just a myth. As the time passed I hardly finished my tawaaf and sa’ee, angry at the mob of Muslims left the Masjid al-Haram. I saw the sign for bathrooms as I was walking out. Needing to go there I took the escalator down, into the basement bathrooms in front of “Gate Abdul Aziz”. By the way, for those who don’t know, if you are wondering where Abu Lahab used to live, please take a stroll down to the bathrooms in front of “Gate Abdul Aziz” and you will find yourself in the humble abode of Abu Lahab. That’s correct; they built bathrooms on top of his property, and a library where the prophet was born. Khair, as I went down the bathroom escalators, I noticed the sign for bathroom on the right, but whole bunch of people were going towards left. So after using the facility I decided to tread the left corner of the bathroom. On the left side were the shower rooms, and between the bathrooms and shower rooms is a long corridor, a hallway. Believe it or not, in that hallway, Allah is my witness, I, with my own eyes saw numerous Muslim brothers laying down there and camping there. These were the beloved brothers who came from poor countries and didn’t have enough money to afford hotels, so they were sleeping and camping out in the BATHROOM hallways.
I gazed at them, then I gazed at myself, and then I yelled at myself, “O Wasif! What right do you have to judge them? Who are you to get mad at them for pushing and struggling to go and Kiss the Black Stone?” Imagine these beloved brothers and sisters of ours; saved up money throughout their lives to be able to make it to Hajj. This was probably their first and last chance. Uneducated and illiterate they may be, but who can doubt their love and sincerity and struggle for the sake of Allah. I went back to the Masjid al-Haram, and looked at all those people who were pushing each other during tawaaf and sa’ee, but this time they looked very adorable and very beautiful as oppose my previous observation of them being idiots! Allah has blessed us with much wealth. We can come and go to Makkah as we please and wish, but these brothers and sisters of ours, were may be there for the first and last time, who am I and what gives me a right to get angry with them, when they have sacrificed so much for the sake of Allah. May Allah forgive me and have mercy on me for thinking ill of them in the beginning.
Few days later the Hajj started. The Imam kept on showing his meanness and his selfishness, some people kept on being annoying and others Alhamdulillah kept on impressing me. Once we got to the Mina tents, the Ameer told us that there is not enough space so please make space for everyone and sacrifice a little bit of comfort for others. Next day we went to Arafah ground. We got our buses little late but got to the Arafah right on time that is right when the Imam had finished his khutbah. But in the mean time many people were complaining and yelling as usual. I was getting sick and tired of some people at this time. Our Ameer, brother Muneer came and reminded everyone, “Brothers you are not here on vacation or a luxury cruise! You are here on Hajj, learn how to be humble and sacrifice your pride for the sake of Allah!”
Before leaving for Arafah grounds, our group was sub-divided in to mini groups of 8-10 people. Each group was lead by a volunteer. These volunteers were students at Medinah Munawwarah Islamic University. We went to Arafah, we prayed and prayed. After the sunset when we were sitting waiting for our buses a brother came to me and said, “I will pray for you!” I was so happy, I said great JazakAllahu Khairan. He then replied, I will pray for you that may Allah guide you, may Allah give you hidayah…they way he said it, it seemed like he was angry with me, but the day of Arafah, I thanked him profusely for this dua’a. But then he said you need guidance because your beard is not Sunnah beard. It’s short. My head dropped in disappointment and I just said, please make sure you make dua’a for my guidance. But then he kept on agitating me with wrong dalaeel that I m not following the Sunnah and making a mockery of the Sunnah. So finally I gave up and I started to teach him little bit about the Hadith, the Sunnah and all that I knew, very sincerely.
Low and behold, little did I know I was ambushed by a hardcore Hanafi follower, and then 10 or so staunch Salafi students of Jami’ah Islamiyah who started taunting me, yelling at me, bickering with me, kept on saying dumb things, illogical arguments, and most of all talked without adaab or morals that our scholars of the past and the companions and the Prophet (asws) so dearly taught and strictly followed. My heart sank to the lowest pit of hell, and used my charm to got one of their students to argue with them, and slowly moved away from the gathering, went away laid down, and slept until the buses came. All this time they wasted their time in useless arguments and made the fool of themselves.
Before sleeping, I thought for a moment. I live in America. I go through utmost disrespect every week when I travel for work at airport, since I am on no fly list. I go to the Army installations, and give them da’awah and without caring for my own safety and safety of my family argue with them about the wrong they are doing in Muslim world. And all our religious scholarship thinks about is the length of beard. Needless to say my heart was crushed and the ideal, “Hajj – A life altering journey” almost faded away completely by now.
In the night our buses came, picked us up from Arafah and dropped us at Muzdalifah at 3 Am. We got off the buses prayed and started collecting stones for Jamarah to be pelted later in the day. Then came the time for Fajr, so we prayed Fajr and started walking towards Mina tents. After walking non-stop to mina tent for eight hours, helping week and old, sick and aged, sisters and mothers on the way. It was one of the most tested walk of my life. May Allah accept it from us all. We rested in the tent for half an hour, told the mothers and aged to rest in the tents while we go and pelt the jamaraat for them and ourselves. So from Mina walked again to Jamaraat, then to Makkah to Masjid al-Haram to the third floor for Tawaaf and Sa’ee.
Now, the poor Muslims who were pushing me, I had nothing but my love and prayers for them, but there were some professional kids and adults who came with their wheel chairs, charged two hundred Saudi Riyals for pushing old or sick people for their tawaaf and sa’ee. These were the people I almost hit and got angry at. Native boys do these thing, they have no respect for the house of Allah, or His Guests. They run like blind people, injuring hundreds of Hujjaj throughout the day and don’t even care. These guys ran over my foot and scratched my feet more than the times I could count and remember. These people bloodied old feeble sick and sweet fathers and mothers like it was no big deal. One hajji, I remember started bleeding so much that the Masjid al-Haram employee had to come and wash the floor. May Allah guide them and punish them. All in all, the whole journey of my ideal hajj was breathing its last breath.
As I was getting so angry at these thugs, the group leader assigned to our new group, Abdus Salaam, started talking to me. He is a student at the Medinah University and majoring in Aqeedah and Da’awah. As I talked to him, he explained brother you shouldn’t have argued with those other students a night before. I asked him why, he replied they are the students who think they have the knowledge but are deprived of the most basic teachings of Islam. They are brain washed and don’t know how to talk to people. Then he said, did you notice when everyone was arguing I was playing with the kids, the reason being that is not the way of the Prophet or the Muslims.
All of a sudden, my hope of Ideal hajj journey rekindled. I started talking to Abdus (that’s what his nick name was) and I became his best friend. A beautiful brother with utmost hayah, respect, morals, adaab, and good Islamic knowledge and upbringing. I decided to spend my whole day with him. As he was the volunteer, after finishing his tawaaf and sa’ee, he was helping other groups. I tagged along, and let me tell you. Following this young beautiful brother for a day alone, made my Hajj journey the ideal life-altering journey.
After helping our group, he went back to Mina to bring second group. Then in the night he took us back to the Mina camp, and around 11 PM he went to other camp because friend of his father, who is a scholar too, requested him specifically to take the shaikh and his family to Makkah for their tawaaf and sa’ee. I told Abdus, “Man just tell him you’ll take them tomorrow morning!” he replied, “I can’t do that, shaikh asked for me specifically, I can’t say no to him!” I almost had tears in my eyes. So he left.
It was around midnight that I came to Mina Tent, and sat all the way inside in a corner of the tent since other people were sleeping in my spot. As I was sitting and resting, I saw a very strange thing. The Imam who was traveling with us, who jumps at every possible opportunity to give long lectures about Islam, entered the tent, saw a 12 year old and his younger brother (may be 10 years of age) sleeping on his spot. The Imam without caring for the Sunnah and adaab that he should have being an Imam, grabbed those kids like animals, started tapping on their bodies like a wahshee and started waking them up, “get up, get up, get up, this is not your place, get up, this is my place.” Shocked and awed, the kids got up and were in sitting position, the Imam started slapping the kids again, “come on come on, don’t waste time, get off and get up, I don’t have time…”
Every single drop of blood in my body boiled, and I wanted to go hit the imam with every last powerful energy in my body. I controlled myself and my sharp tongue, took those kids, and settled them on my place, moved few uncles around and made spaces for them to sleep in the camp. Needless to say, the Imam from that moment on had no respect in my eyes, and I struggled very hard to not say anything to him and not to embrace him. I ignored him for next day or so and avoided him, because I knew if he came to me and lectured me about anything I was going to snap.
Next morning, when we were taking all the sick people and sisters to Makkah for their tawaaf and sa’ee the Imam’s wife was sitting in the wheel chair, and other than Imam everyone was pushing her. Sitting on the chair she was as mean and selfish as her husband, and I was amazed at the level of absurdity these people carried. So when we started walking in a straight line, as oppose to the usual call and cry of “Hajji Hajji tareeq tareeq” (O hajji, make way make way for us) which is a very rude way of saying get out of my way to anyone, I would walk up to people who were blocking our way, I would politely smile, say salaam to them asked them how they were doing and then asked them to make way, boy I got so many beautiful smiles and dua’as that I can’t explain.
Now I was beginning to understand why Hajj is a life-altering journey. May events took place, many people yelled, and many people smiled. We helped many and many helped us. I got close to many brothers and uncles and aunties, and I distanced myself from those “religious people, whose knowledge of Qur’an and Deen didn’t even reach their throat”.
Hours passed, days went by, our hajj ended. Some people kept on arguing until the last day of our journey about absurd points, and some gave up. Some corrected themselves and some went more astray. We traveled back to Jeddah airport, and while standing in the ticket counter line, started noticing the same old fights, lack of discipline, lawlessness, and same old rubbish behavior from these new pilgrims.
With saddened heart I sat in the plan, got to Amman, got pulled over by the security force again, thanks to the super duper “no fly list”. They checked me, scanned me, congratulated me on Hajj, made dua’a for me, and told me, “brother please, keep on being a strong Muslim, and giving Da’awah to America!” We are here for you. These were the words of the Security officers in Amman Jordan, who were ordered by US to take me out, search me over and over again, and find something to not let me enter America again.
When I got back to the door, from questioning and interrogation, all the people from our group started cheering Allahu Akbar, and congratulating me. Same old uncle, who argued with me foolishly about the beard and stuff, took my hand, kissed it a thousand times and cried like a baby and asked me to forgive him and make dua’a for him.
We sat on the plane from Amman to come back to Chicago. I saw the faces of people in our group. Some changed for better some for worst. I made friends with Tareq, the flight attendant from Jordan, and called the female flight attendants my sister and gave them da’awah. Advised them all to get married soon and make Allah their priority. When I reach Chicago, I saw how others were acting and how I was acting and realized, without knowing, this Hajj did alter my life. It crept up to me. Took out my anger, and filled it with love for all Muslims. It made me call everyone to the way of Allah in a very polite manner. I despised the Imam, but kept my mouth shut. I saw people fighting, but distanced myself from them in the fight, and tried to mend their problems. And the best thing was, I wasn’t the only one, many young and old brothers and sisters were changed, and trying to help others become better Muslims too. So I guess in the end, Hajj did become the life-altering journey for some, and remained a big question for others! This journey reminded me of a lecture Shaikh Jamal Badawi taught us a decade ago; the theme of the lecture was that us Muslims focus so much on the ritualism and formalism of our Deen and it’s ‘Ibadaat that we have actually forgotten the Spirit of this Deen. Going to Hajj definitely put things in perspective and I agree with his analysis, so I hope and pray that may Allah forgive us and help and support us, and give us the proper understanding of beautiful Deen. Ameen.